France calls for calm in Saudi-UN row over Yemen
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French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called Friday for calm to resolve an angry row between Saudi Arabia and the United Nations over the blacklisting of the Saudi-led coalition bombing Yemen.
Ayrault said France could help defuse tensions following a UN decision to remove the coalition from a list of child rights violators.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday said he had decided to take the coalition off the list after Saudi Arabia and its allies threatened to cut off funding to UN aid programs.
"We have to do everything to appease the situation," Ayrault told reporters at UN headquarters.
"France is always there when it comes to safeguarding the UN's capacity to take action," he added.
The United Nations blacklisted the coalition after concluding in a report released last week that it was responsible for 60 percent of the 785 deaths of children in Yemen last year.
But in an embarrassing climbdown, the world body announced on Monday that the coalition would be scratched from the list of shame pending a joint review with the Saudi-led alliance.
Ayrault steered clear of taking sides in the dispute, as did Britain's UN ambassador.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said he welcomed "the fact that the secretary-general and Saudi Arabia have reached agreement on an analysis of the cases in the report."
But he declined to comment further on the controversy.
Saudi Arabi's UN ambassador Abdullah al-Mouallimi denies that there was pressure on Ban and declared that the decision to take the coalition off the list was "irreversible."
In his remarks, Ban appealed for support from UN member-states to defend UN assessments such as the annual report on children in armed conflict, which includes the list of rights violators.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that "the secretariat should be more independent in drafting UN reports."
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington that the United Nations should be able "to carry out its ability to report objectively on these kinds of issues without fear of reprisal."
The United States has cut off aid to the UN cultural agency UNESCO after it recognized Palestine as a member and has in the past withheld dues owed to the United Nations over demands for reforms.